As if the series couldn't get any harder for the Celtics, another key starter came down with an injury. Avery Bradley strained his right hamstring midway through the fourth quarter of their 102-101 Game 1 loss to the Hawks. Brad Stevens revealed Sunday that the strain is "pretty significant" and Bradley is "very unlikely" to play in the rest of the series.
Bradley said he felt a pop landing after a block attempt, then moments later he struggled to move laterally and committed a foul before hobbling to the sidelines. Bradley was then helped to the locker room by his teammates and head athletic trainer Ed Lacerte.
"I just want to try and get treatment, take it day by day, and hopefully I can get back for the next game," Bradley told reporters after the game. "I'll get treatment tonight, I'll get treatment all night. My main focus is to get back next game."
Bradley added that he'd receive an MRI Sunday to determine the severity of the strain, but CSN's A. Sherrod Blakely reported that the Celtics didn't need an MRI to determine how severe of a strain it was.
Stevens didn't say if Bradley has a Grade 1, 2, or 3 sprain. It's likely not a Grade 1 strain to the hamstring, since Bradley could possibly play without any restrictions. That was obvious from the start, judging from his reaction, the limp, the crutch. It's quite possible that it's a Grade 2 strain, which involves moderate tearing and a typical one to three week recovery period.
In a worst-case scenario, a Grade 3 strain to the hamstring is a complete rupture of the muscle and it often requires surgery. But Bradley was able to walk with a crutch, so it seems more likely that it's a Grade 2 strain.
Bradley is an elite defender because of his quickness and change of direction ability, so any type of hamstring injury will at least sap away some of his speed unless he's fully recovered. A rested Terry Rozier might actually be a better option than a hindered Bradley. While it'll be a positive when Bradley is able to play, it doesn't necessarily mean he'll produce at a level necessary to contain the likes of Jeff Teague or Dennis Schroeder.
Active doesn't always mean effective.
Regardless of the length of Bradley's absence, the injury is a major negative to the Celtics. Bradley is Boston's best perimeter defender (opponents shot 2.5 percent worse when defended by Bradley, per SportVU) and their best three-point shooter (36.1 percent) at the wing position.
So the Celtics will need other players to pick up the slack. Marcus Smart is the obvious candidate after scoring 15 points on 5-10 shooting, with a number of tremendous defensive sequences against the Hawks. Evan Turner could also see an uptick in usage.
"We lost a brother. But we've got players that can step up. We are going to have to step up. We're going to miss Avery," Smart said. "If it means I've got to step up with a little bit more responsibility, that's something I'm willing to take on."
Terry Rozier could also see an increased role. He has similar physical dimensions to Bradley and plays with contagious energy, especially on the boards. If the Celtics are hungry for shooting, then R.J. Hunter could receive a chance, like he did in the first half against the Hawks. Of course, there's also James Young.
While it's unlikely, don't rule out an appearance by John Holland. He hasn't played in an NBA game but has a great deal of professional experience overseas and in the NBA-DL. This season for the Canton Charge he shined as a versatile defender and was a solid three-point shooter.
It'll be interesting to see how the Boston Celtics plan to replace Avery Bradley's production on both ends of the floor.